There was a time, in the not-too-distant past, when a life was considered a long one if you reached three score years and ten.
Thankfully, given that I – along with millions of other members of Generation X – seem destined to have to work until at least my 70th birthday, this particular milestone might soon be regarded as the ‘new 40’.
There are currently around 15,000 people in the UK aged 100 or over, but experts predict that this figure will be pushing at least 300,000 by 2050, which is due to a number of factors, but largely down to the wonders of modern medicine.
It is an inescapable fact that we are mostly living longer and the pressures that this will put on the world will be significant – how we will house and feed so many hundreds of millions of more people than there are now is an issue which is vexing the greatest of minds, never mind a fat lad from Stockport whose only A-grade came in drama.
Personally, I try not to think too hard about growing old – not because the prospect of even more grey hairs and creaking limbs fills me with dread, I can deal with that.
What I am not too keen on is the prospect of retirement – when it finally comes – lasting for too long, especially if prolonged old age – if it comes my way – consists of years of eating beans on toast and watching endless repeats of Mrs Brown’s Boys.
We all dream of life after work once the flock have flown the nest, but what we hope for involves sunnier climes and an endless supply of wine – the stuff that isn’t sold in petrol stations.
Let’s face it, the prospect of the above isn’t great. Ever-increasing house prices and ridiculously expensive higher education means that the average Joe’s retirement fund – if we have one – will be sucked up by the kids, who probably won’t be able to afford to leave home until their 40th birthday.
Then there is the matter of whether or not we will be healthy enough to enjoy whatever retirement we have. If the scientists of the future can halt ageing, just like the aliens did in the 1985 film Cocoon, then I am in, but that particular medical advance feels to me like a bit of a long shot.
A big fear for many of us is ending up in a care home at some point as while these places are much better than they were when I worked in one as student, earning less than three quid an hour, they are hardly a laugh-a-minute.
You only have to look at the furore surrounding one care home company’s decision to entertain some of its Dorset residents with a pole-dancing demonstration. One politician described it as ‘inappropriate’, while the home in question was inundated with media enquiries, presumably from reporters desperately trying to find out where the OAPs stuck their £5 notes.
Of course, the entertainment was anything but salacious, and the pole dancer was wearing gym gear rather than a leather bodice.
But what concerns me most is the inference that old people aren’t allowed to have any fun unless it involves two fat ladies and singalongs to Val Doonican hits.
If we are all going to live for longer, then the rules about how we are supposed to conduct ourselves as pensioners better change.